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Australia Raises 2nd AIF

15 SEP 1939: World War II and the Australian Government announces mobilisation of the militia and the establishment of the second AIF for service abroad. Australia needed to raise a volunteer force for overseas service in the Second World War while the militia were initially only allowed to serve in Australian territories.

Australia had a dilemma at the start of World War Two. When Britain declared war on Nazi Germany in September 1939, Australia had to decide whether to use her military to support Britain in the European sphere of war or to keep her forces in the Far East in view of the worsening situation there with regards to Japanese expansion. 

Any movement of Australian troops to Britain (or to places such as Egypt) would weaken the strength of Australia’s military at home. Any serious Allied military defeat would also impact on the Australian military, which might be part of this defeat.

The Australian government decided that any major Axis victory in Europe against the British would almost certainly be decisive and change the course of the war – therefore, the government decided that it would commit all its forces against the danger Germany posed in Europe.

Australia had anticipated Britain’s declaration of war against the Germans as early as August 1939. Heavy artillery units were mobilised and outlying military centres such as Port Moresby, received supplies of weapons and ammunition in case such a declaration stimulated further Japanese aggression.

The Australian Parliament was united on a declaration of war against the Axis powers. The only potential problem was the issue of conscription. During World War One, this had caused major political troubles.

However, in World War Two, a compromise was reached. Parliament voted in November 1939 for conscription, but conscripts could only serve in Australia itself and neighbouring islands. Photo: General Blamey and Prime Minister Robert Menzies. More;

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